Thursday, October 29, 2009

(Bump) Halloween?

I doubt I'm about to say anything that you can't find thousands of other people saying on the internet this week...and, I doubt that you have much doubt about my views of Halloween if you've been reading my blog for more than a few days...and, I am certainly NOT posting this in an attempt to get a theological discussion going about Halloween...nor am I trying to persuade you to change any opinions about this or any other holiday...trust me, I know that if you believe that Halloween is the devil, there ain't nobody going to be changing your convictions anytime soon.

But, I’m sharing this with you because I have had a few people ask me why we celebrate Halloween.

First, let me share with you my history with Halloween. When I was very young, my parents would take my sisters and I out every year trick or treating (totting). I remember Halloween as lots of fun...my mom would even make our costumes (before the days of Wal-Mart). One year, I was Kermit the frog...another year, all three of us were the pink panther [those were some HOT (not sexy hot, but sweaty/stinky hot) costumes...].

The biggest thing I remember about those early years of totting (beyond the requisite candy-trading with my sisters at the end of the bountiful evening) was a very real fear of dying from eating a poisoned or razor blade embedded piece of candy...I don't know why my parents thought it was OK to warn me about such things... So, from early on, I was taught that Halloween was not all fun and games.

When I was about 7, my parents made the decision to stop allowing us to participate in traditional Halloween festivities...namely the evil and dangerous totting. I'm guessing that this decision had as much to do with the fact that my father was a pastor of some “convicted” people as it had to do with my parents’ own convictions, but regardless, pink panther was long gone.

In it's place, we began having the wonderful Baptist (although I hear it's not contained to one denomination) alternative called, "Harvest Party". If you've never been to a harvest party, think of it as the alternative prom...the one that all the lame people who didn't want to have any fun went to. I'm not saying our harvest parties weren't any fun...I have some good memories of all of the Bible characters I dressed up as and all of the sword drills I won for candy. But, Halloween for us was definitely not the same as Halloween for the rest of the known world.

Fast forward to present day. Harvest Parties are long gone at our church. I haven't done a sword drill in years. In a few days, my dad is going to be grilling hundreds of hotdogs for a few thousand unchurched guests (about 500 families) who come through NHC's TRUNKorTREAT. My mom is going to be trying to up her costume from last year (see pics below). I have been plotting my own costume since last spring. About 80% of our church is going to be volunteering to pass out candy, man our giant inflatable games, serve food and drinks, etc.

My Dad:
My Mom:

At some point, my parents finally saw the light...and, I got past my deadly fears as well.

All that to say, here's what we believe about Halloween:

> There is nothing evil about October 31 in and of itself. Nor is their necessarily anything evil about dressing up, buying candy, passing out candy, receiving candy, eating candy, hanging out with friends, carving a pumpkin, etc.

> There are people in the past and in the present who choose to use October 31 as a day for evil. Vandalism, substance abuse, sexual "fun" (have you seen some of the costumes these days?), imitation of blood and violence have all, among certain groups, become closely associated with Halloween.

> There are also people who choose to use October 31 for neutral reasons…hanging out with friends, eating candy, staying home to watch the World Series, etc.

> There are some people who choose to isolate and insulate themselves from everything related to Halloween, fearing the possible evils and harm that could come their way if they were to participate in the day.

> And, there are people who choose to use October 31 for God-centered purposes.

We choose to use Halloween as an opportunity to reach out to our community and show them, not that there is an alternative to Halloween, but that there is an alternative to life. While we do stay away from using witches and ghosts and axe murderers in our Halloween celebration, we don't put Halloween or those who celebrate it differently than us down in any way. Instead, we invite people to come and celebrate October 31 with us (even if they dress up as a witch), hoping that they'll see and hear about our alternative way of life.

I realize that a lot of people disagree with how we view Halloween, and that's OK with us...most of those people are not who we are trying to reach. In fact the cool thing about ToT is that, because so many other churches/Christians disagree with our view about October 31, we almost exclusively attract unchurched people in our community with this event. I also understand that Halloween is celebrated very differently in other cultures (even in the states), which makes what we do a little easier. We see very little of the violence and vandalism that many other cities and towns deal with on October 31...we see less neighborhood totting as well. TRUNKorTREAT is actually not just another stop for our community on October 31, it has become the place to be...this year we're expecting upwards of 2500 people.

Nate

10 comments:

higgie07 said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for being rational about this! I love your thoughts on this. I went trick or treating every year when I was growing up, my kids have gone every year, and yet we still love the Lord. My son is seven and wanted to be the Grim Reaper this year (apparently many of his school mates are dressing up as this or other gory things) and we said absolutely not. We do have limits on what we will allow him to wear and I explained this to him and he seemed to understand. He is going as a Stormtrooper instead, and my daughter is a kitty cat princess. :)

BTW, my mom didn't make our costumes, but we wore those vinyl ones with the plastic masks that came in boxes. Now THOSE were hot and sweaty! Jerry Seinfeld wrote a hilarious children's book about this a couple of years ago. :)

Again, thanks for the thoughts. I hope your trunk or treat goes well!

MilePost13 said...

Thanks.

JJ&K said...

What a cool idea (I saw the links/spoofs on your CFHusband blog and was SO curious about the "trunk" part...)! I wish we had something like this out here in CA. I love the spoof ads!

You make a great case for a God-centered Halloween. I never thought of it that way!

Kimberly said...

I think it's cool - the ToT - I was going to suggest to my pastor that they check it out for an idea for us -- how would you feel about being ripped off idea-wise???

We have SO MANY UNCHURCHED that this would bring to us. One way to get grown people is hook their kids! Generally, we do some sort of party for the kids, games, candy, cake walk, etc, and they are encouraged to dress up if they want to (nothing too out of the realm of acceptable of course). The kids have a blast. It is closed to our church kids though. I can see this being a TREMENDOUS outreach opportunity. We do a carnival/festival day in a rough part of our town in the spring to reach that particular part of the community, but this could be a great fall thing for us! draw those folks in and hopefully get some savin' goin' on!.

I pretty much am right on with what you said - it's not about the date or the event - it's about the intent... Some people turn Christmas into an unholy day.. intent is everything!

best costume ever - my mom, not a crafty wonder, made us into a "cloud" 1 year - involved a ridiculously huge waste of toilet paper and standing very close together at all times...

of course, they also scared the living tar out of us about the candy - even went so far as to take it to the local hospital to be x-rayed a couple of times before we were allowed to delve into it -- however, we also lived right outside a major city and did have a child get cut badly by a razor blade in a popcorn ball.. some people...

it wasn't long after that the fun was gone and my mom was too worried to let us go begging... but some fun memories from before then!

MilePost13 said...

Since we stole the idea from somebody else, feel free to steal it from us.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I've heard of other churches in the US doing TrunkorTreat. Of course, if you wanted to avoid the Hallowe'en thing altogether, you could hold an All Saints party. All Saints is/was a very big holiday in France; I was saddened to see their supermarkets have started selling Hallowe'en tat, like ours do.....

LifeAtTheCircus.com said...

I can totally relate to this. As a kid my parents went back and forth on the to trick or treat or not to trick or treat issue. Some years we did, others we did the Harvest Party (and we were Presbyterians) others we did movies or bowling... I wondered what I would do when I had kids.
We do participate in trick or treating. In my neighborhood it is a big deal,everyone has tables out on their driveways, neighbors talk and mingle. I can't imagine the message we would send to the community if we shut the doors and turned out the lights. This is a rare and golden opportunity we have to open our doors, share some treats, and get to know our neighbors. We don't do anything grotesque or ghastly in our decor or costumes. But, I welcome the chance to befriend my neighbors and let them get to know us a little more.

Ginger said...

We have chosen to forego celebrating halloween. It was something my husband felt strongly about when we were dating. We both grew up Trick-or-Treating - he had a fun time and I had been terrorized by an overly zealous neighbor, so when he said "let's not," that was OK by me!

We tend to do whatever we would do on any other night. My 3 kids are teens/young adults now. It's never been a big deal to them. We have in the past watched the movie "Luther" and had a Reformation Night, but usually we just continue our usual deal. Because we live in the country, we don't have ToT-ers coming by, so that's perhaps made it easier to ignore the day. Perhaps our decision would have been different if we had lived in a neighborhood. We don't have a "halloween alternative" at our church either. In fact, nothing at all has been said about halloween one way or the other at our nondenominational church.

To me, whether one chooses to celebrate halloween or not to celebrate it is a personal decision. We aren't legalistic about it and don't feel our salvation hinges on our decision. I also definitely don't feel our decision is a "holier" one than anyone else's.

Hope you guys have a great night. (I have loved your costumes you have done in the past, BTW.) As for me, I'll be watching "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and eating popcorn with my girls.

Anonymous said...

I think you may have explained everything I wanted to say, but wasn't sure how! For Halloween this year, my boys (5 and 7) decided to be a Fisher of Men (fisherman), and a Soldier (in God's Army). My Fisher made "fishing license" that said God Loves You, and my soldier made crosses out of popcicle sticks(when turned upside down looks like a sword), that said Jesus Loves You. Each house we went to, the boys very proudly shared a gift and explained what it was and that God loves them. They were much more excited about sharing the Word of God than they were about receiving candy.
As you said...it is all about what you make of a day...any day. My hope is that my boys touched someone's heart that night!

Kate said...

We share the same beliefs as you do on Halloween...we avoid the scary costumes (and definitely sexy!) and focus on the fun in Halloween. However, we have a child who cannot eat by mouth--anything. He has a central line, a g tube and a j tube. He is about to turn 3. Last year, in an effort to normalize things for him, we took my kids trick or treating (we would love a Trunk or Treat but none are around here) and thought we could do a switch of the candy he received. It failed and was a miserable experience for him. We are struggling with how to approach it this year. We've researched just about every Fall Festival, Harvest Party, etc. and they are all candy focused. I really wish there was an event that included treats for the kids who can't participate in the candy. I recognize we are a very tiny part of the population but if you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them. :-)